Israeli troops are engaging in a unique kind of warfare as they push deeper into Gaza in response to Hamas attacks. Unlike traditional urban clashes, this battle is taking place underground in a network of tunnels that Hamas has been constructing for over a decade. With an estimated length of over 300 miles, the subterranean labyrinth presents a significant challenge for the Israeli military.
To combat this threat, specialized units code-named Samur, which means “weasel” in Hebrew, have been assigned to carry out “de-tunneling” operations. These units will navigate through narrow passages to search for rocket-assembly lines, storage areas for weapons, and even the hidden lodging and headquarters of Hamas leaders. The tunnels may also be housing some of the more than 200 hostages taken from Israel.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Mark Schwartz, who previously coordinated security efforts between the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, describes this undertaking as unprecedented for the Israel Defense Forces. The Biden administration has even dispatched experienced insurgency experts, including Marine Corps Gen. James Glynn, to advise the Israeli military.
The tunnel system of Hamas presents a more significant challenge than those faced in past urban conflicts, such as Fallujah or Mosul. Eitan Shamir, director of the Begin-Sadar Center for Strategic Studies, describes it as a “major challenge” due to its advanced infrastructure and the training and equipment of Hamas fighters. Furthermore, Gaza’s geography, confined by Israel, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea, makes a ground war uniquely difficult.
The tunnels in Gaza have been in use for decades, initially for smuggling people and goods between Gaza and Egypt. Over time, the tunnels evolved into different types serving various purposes, including launching attacks and storing weapons. Israel has accused Hamas of diverting construction supplies meant for civilian aid into tunnel-building efforts since 2014.
In response to the tunnel threat, the U.S. has collaborated with Israel by providing expertise and funding. Congress allocated $320 million to develop technologies for detecting and neutralizing underground tunnels. Additionally, an underground concrete barrier with anti-tunnel sensors has been completed along the entire Israel-Gaza border.
Israel’s battle against Hamas tunnels is not a new phenomenon. Previous conflicts have uncovered and destroyed numerous cross-border tunnels. However, the current operations are on a much larger scale due to the extensive network Hamas has developed over the years.
Q: What are the challenges of Israel’s battle against Hamas tunnels?
A: Israel faces the complex infrastructure of the tunnels, the advanced training and equipment of Hamas fighters, and the difficult geography of Gaza.
Q: How has the United States supported Israel in combating the tunnel threat?
A: The U.S. has provided expertise and funding to help Israel locate and neutralize the tunnels. Congress has allocated $320 million for this purpose. Additionally, an underground concrete barrier with anti-tunnel sensors has been constructed along the Israel-Gaza border.
Q: What is the significance of the Hamas tunnel system?
A: The tunnels play a critical role in Hamas’ military strategy, providing hidden routes to launch attacks and store weapons.
– Original article: Defense One – [URL]
– Congressional Research Service – [URL]